Movie ReviewsJosh Reviews Thor: Love and Thunder

Josh Reviews Thor: Love and Thunder

I enjoyed the first two Thor films, though in hindsight I think both count among the weaker of the MCU films.  Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, was a glorious surprise and a thrilling reinvention of the Thor character.  It was epic and exciting and also deliriously funny and off-kilter.  Take Waititi’s comedic sensibilities blended perfectly with the material to create one of the most fun and entertaining MCU films to date.  When I heard that Mr. Waititi and actor Chris Hemsworth were reuniting for a new Thor film (making Thor the first MCU solo character to get a fourth movie!), I was excited but also a little nervous.  Comedy sequels are notoriously hard.  (Seriously, name a great comedy sequel.)  Could Mr. Waititi and Marvel capture lighting in a bottle?

Well… sadly, no.  Thor: Love and Thunder is a fun film and I enjoyed watching it.  It has a lot going for it.  But it’s not the home run that Ragnarok was.  The tone feels a little off to me, and I didn’t find that the character arcs and themes came together in as satisfying a way as I’d hoped.

Shall we dig in?  Please beware some SPOILERS ahead, my friends!

The best and most exciting aspect of Thor: Love and Thunder for me was the return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster to the MCU.  Jane was an important character in the first two Thor films, but after that, she disappeared (apparently due to Ms. Portman’s lack of interest in participating in future MCU films).  So while many of the side characters in Thor (Darcy, Dr. Selvig…) continued to appear in future MCU stories, Jane was quietly written off.  I always thought that was a shame, so I was thrilled to see Ms. Portman return as Jane, and in such a central role.  It’s wonderful to see this character treated with the importance she’s due.  Thor: Love and Thunder could be the first step in an exciting new story for Jane… or it could be her final appearance in the MCU.  To the film’s credit, it works either way.

The film adapts major aspects of writer Jason Aaron’s lengthy run on The Mighty Thor comic book series, in which Jane Foster takes up the mantle and powers of Thor while, at the same time, undergoing treatment for cancer.  It’s a delight to see the Jane Foster version of Thor on-screen in the MCU.  I love how faithfully they adapted her look (and that great helmet!) from the comics.  It’s fun to see Jane as a competent and powerful super-hero, in addition to continuing to be the brilliant scientist she’s always been.  Ms. Portman seems to be having fun, and I like seeing her take center stage.  On the other hand, I wish the film allowed Jane more true heroic moments as Thor.  (I wish she and Valkyrie didn’t both briefly become damsels in distress towards the end, being used by Gorr to get Thor to relent.  That felt a little bit backwards for a 2022 movie.)  I’d also have loved to have dug a little deeper into her cancer storyline.

One of the chief delights of Thor: Ragnarok was how the film adjusted the Thor character, allowing Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talents to shine through.  I loved that goofy Thor from Ragnarok far more than the stiff and proper Thor from the previous two movies.  So it’s a shame then that I didn’t really key into Mr. Hemsworth’s work as Thor here in Love and Thunder.  The film really seems to lean into blustery and idiotic Thor, in a way that I found off-putting.  It’s one thing to have one or two scenes in which Thor is acting like a puffed-up buffoon in front of Jane… but that’s the take on Thor we get for huge swaths of the film, and I found it more annoying than funny.  In Avengers: Infinity War, the writing and Mr. Hemsworth’s performance were calibrated so that Thor could be an arrogant lunkhead but, in his scenes with the Guardians of the Galaxy, it was funny and endearing.  Here, I thought those scenes felt flat and off.

One of the great missed opportunities of this film is how quickly the Guardians of the Galaxy are written out of the story.  I loved Thor’s scenes with the Guardians in Infinity War, and I was excited for the “Asgardians of the Galaxy” tease at the end of Endgame.  But clearly Mr. Waititi wasn’t interested in that, as the Guardians are barely in this film.  Seriously, other than Chris Pratt as Star Lord, most of the Guardians barely get a line of dialogue.  What a bummer!  I was expecting Thor to part company from them at some point, but I thought at least we’d get a fun and funny start to the film with them on an adventure together.

Getting back to Mr. Hemsworth, when the film allowed him to settle down and be genuine — such as in a few nice moments with Jane, late in the film, after he discovers the truth of her cancer diagnosis — he’s great!  But I was bummed those moments were so few and far between.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for comedy in an MCU film!  I am all for a film that wants to be funny and goofy.  And there are many great and very funny moments in this film!  But in a film like this, I think the comedy needs to be balanced with characters that feel real and have a compelling arc, and I think that was missing from the film.  On paper I can see what the idea was here with Thor: that we’d see a character who had lost everything having to learn to deal with his grief; to still be open to forming relationships as opposed to pushing people away in an attempt to spare himself the pain of future loss.  But I felt that the film only dealt with that arc on a superficial level; I wanted to see more of that, and to get deeper into Thor’s emotional journey.  To the film’s credit, I was pleased that it didn’t try to be only comedy.  The movie opens with a sequence in which an innocent little girl dies, for goodness sake!!  But the comedy and character drama wasn’t as balanced here as I’d hoped for.

I loved Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher.  Mr. Bale is such a charismatic and compelling actor!!  I loved how he conveyed Gorr’s quiet menace.  I also loved the look of the character, pale and emaciated.  It was very creepy and memorable.  The problem is that Gorr doesn’t really have much to do in the film after that great opening sequence that gives us his origin.  I think we needed to see him actually kill some gods to better establish him as a true threat to our heroes.

I loved that Tessa Thompson returned as Valkyrie and that she had a lot of screen time.  Ms. Thompson is eminently watchable; she can make any sequence fun and interesting.  As with Gorr, I just wish she had a little more to actually do.  The film’s story wouldn’t be much different if she wasn’t in it, which for me is a sizable problem with the film’s structure.  I was also hoping the film would better embrace Valkyrie’s being a lesbian.  I don’t need a whole romantic subplot, but I’d have liked to have seen this aspect of Valkyrie’s character being a little more front-and-center.

I was also pleased that Mr. Waititi returned as Korg, another great new character from Ragnarok!  We got a lot of fun new Korg moments in this film!

I was excited for this film to introduce gods of other pantheons from the Marvel universe, in particular the Greek gods (who exist in the Marvel comics universe, just as the Norse gods do).  Russell Crowe’s scenes as Zeus did not disappoint.  Mr. Crowe was extremely weird and funny (that accent!) as the full-of-himself Zeus.  I only wish he was in more of the movie!!  I was bummed his appearance was basically a lengthy cameo.  (That Thor basically murders Zeus in the middle of the movie seemed like a bizarre choice to me.  That doesn’t quite feel like the action our hero should take, even if it was sort of accidental.)  (I guess the filmmakers agreed, as the film’s mid-credits scene walks this back.)

As a long-time Marvel comic-book-loving nerd, I was thrilled to see Eternity brought to life on screen.  His iconic silhouette was perfectly realized!!  That was very cool!  I also loved seeing statues of Celestials around him (a. nice tie-in to Eternals).  I wish the film better explained the geography of what was where (how did Gorr’s black-and-white realm relate to the location of Eternity’s altar?) and how exactly the wish-granting power of Eternity worked.  (While thematically I like the idea that Gorr wished in the opening that he could give up his life so that his daughter could live, and in the end he got that wish, I didn’t understand why he couldn’t have gotten it all.  Why couldn’t he have wished for both him AND his daughter to live?  If Eternity could grant him a wish of destroying all gods in existence, why would saving two mortal lives be impossible?)

I’ve always enjoyed Jaimie Alexander’s work as Sif.  She was great in the first Thor film and I keep hoping she’ll have more to do in one of these sequels.  I was glad to see her back here but those two short scenes didn’t do it for me.  (If future Thor films don’t bring back Natalie Portman as Jane, could we see a Thor-Sif romance?  I wouldn’t be opposed to that.)

I loved the general eighties vibe of the film.  I’ve loved the film’s promotional art and trailers, and I really smiled at the music and font choices in the film’s end credits.

I didn’t love Thor’s costume for most of the film.  I liked how it channelled a classic Thor look from the comics (and I really smiled at the brief appearance of Thor’s huge gold helmet, a classic look from the comics), but overall I thought his costume looked a little too flat and garish to me.  It felt more like a costume and less like the garb this warrior might actually wear.  This was a case when the bright eighties look didn’t quite work for me.  (On the other hand, I LOVED the brief appearance of Thor’s classic comic book costume in the “growing up” montage of Thor running.  And how cute was baby Thor, riding into battle strapped across his mother’s chest?  Fantastic.)

As for the post- credit scenes… I’m excited to see Ted Lassos Brett Goldstein join the MCU as Hercules!  Hercules has been a long-time Marvel comics character (he’s been in and out of the Avengers over the years) and I think he’d be a fun character to see in the MCU.  It’d be great to see him butt heads with Thor in a future film, and Mr. Goldstein sure looks the part.  It’s interesting how so many of the recent MCU post-credit scenes have been structured to introduce new characters (Pip and Starfox at the end of Eternals and Clea at the end of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness).  What was weird was how short the shot of Hercules was.  It was so fast that I didn’t even register that it was Brett Goldstein in the role!!  I discovered that only when reading about the film on-line, afterwards.

The final post-credit scene gave Jane Foster the happy ending she well deserves.  Will she return to Earth as a Valkyrie in a future film?  That door is certainly open, though I thought this scene also serves well as a finale for her character.  I was also tickled to see Idris Elba back as Heimdall, even if only for a moment.

Other comments:

  • The opening with Gorr walking across a barren dessert really reminded me of the opening of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier!
  • While most of the Guardians of the Galaxy got short shrift in this film, I loved the little comedy bit in which we discover that Kraglin (Sean Gunn) seems to get married on every planet they visit!
  • I believe I caught a glimpse of Darryl from the “Team Thor” shorts as a tour guide in New Asgard!!  Fantastic!!
  • How great was Jane’s Halloween costume in which an Alien chestburster seems to be coming out of her chest??  I loved that!
  • I was delighted that Matt Damon and Luke Hemsworth reprised their cameo roles from Ragnarok as the Asgardian actors who make a habit of performing plays based on the previous Thor movies!  And this time they were joined by Sam Neill and Melissa McCarthy!!  So fun.
  • I liked the running joke of a romantic triangle between Thor and his former and current weapons: Mjolnir and Stormbreaker.  That was such a weird idea, and yet I thought it worked well.
  • This was the first Thor solo film that didn’t also feature Tom Hiddleston as Loki.  While I understand that Loki is off on his own adventures on his fantastic Disney+ show, I must confess that I missed Loki here!  I missed the crackle of the Thor-Loki relationship.  That energy was missing.

So there was a lot I liked about Thor: Love and Thunder!  I just wish the film didn’t feel so slight.  I wish I felt that both Thor and Jane had more compelling emotional storylines.  I wanted the climax of this film to feel heartbreaking.

Is this the final Thor solo film… or is the middle film in a Taika Waititi trilogy?  I’m eager to find out.  I’d love to see more of Thor and all the rest of these characters.

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